Nearly one third of partners at firms with 50 or more lawyers are examining a stock exchange float within the next 18 months, according to research published today. The poll, commissioned by a litigation funder, found that 31% are 'actively considering an initial public offering' while 44% said an IPO was 'under consideration'. 

The results suggest a continuing appetite for going public despite the generally lacklustre performance of law firm shares since City firm Gateley became the first to list in its own right in 2015. The next firm expected to take the plunge is London firm Mishcon de Reya.

Harbour, privately held litigation and arbitration funder, polled partners at firms with more than 50 lawyers with turnovers ranging from £5m to over £500m. Of that sample, 78% of respondents said their firms were either in active discussions, or considering whether, to pursue a credit facility. That, coupled with the interest in selling shares, suggests a 'greater demand than ever before' for external capital. 

Respondents were generally upbeat about the future, with more than 50% of those surveyed saying the pandemic had presented new growth opportunities to expand existing practice areas or develop new business lines. Whilst 86% of respondents highlighted continued downward pressure from clients on costs for certain services, innovation and attracting external investment are expected to counteract this pressure and to meet the growth agenda.

Ellora MacPherson, chief investment officer at Harbour said: 'This survey shows a real desire by firms to access external finance to support their growth ambitions. IPOs are one way of doing this but won’t be the best fit for all firms.'